Parenting

Siblings: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Almost a year ago I conducted a mid-year review for myself as a mother of two. I’m not going to revisit my objectives here as I probably wouldn’t do too well (children still do not sleep through the night) but I am going to give a little update on how life is with two children.

Before having my son, I prepared for two by reading Siblings Without Rivalry. It’s a really easy read, it makes complete sense and it definitely has some useful stuff in there but I feel it didn’t really prepare me for the onslaught that was heading my way. They make it sound so simple to, for example, not compare your children. But it’s amazing how hard it can be to bite your tongue and not say, “Look! Your brother ate his tea nicely!”

So, if you’re considering having a second child, definitely read Siblings Without Rivalry for some theory, but also have a read of this for some insight into how it is in practice!

The Good

Having two children really is lovely. It makes my heart swell. They are each other’s favourite person. They argue and fight (more on that later) but there’s also nobody else they’d rather play with, which sometimes gives me up to an hour to get on with other stuff. The key is to look busy – if you look available or make eye contact then the magic will be ruined.

My son’s face lights up when he sees his sister. He thinks everything she does is wonderful. She’s throwing her tea on the floor? What a fabulous game! Why didn’t he think of that? She’s using her fork to drum on the table? He’ll do it too! She’s running around the house like a maniac? Wait for him! Jumping in her cot? He can join in! You get the picture.

The other day, my daughter decided that jumping from the settee on to the floor would be an excellent game. I didn’t agree, but my opinions don’t count for much. There were discussions, threats, etc but the end result was my son launching himself into our very hard glass coffee table head first while I was on the phone making him a dentist’s appointment. I must clear some space on my shelf for my mother of the year award…

You could see this as them winding each other up, of course. But let’s be generous and just say it shows their delight in one another’s company.

The feeling is mutual – my daughter refers to her brother as her baby, and says that I have to share him. She gives him spontaneous kisses and recently has developed a new game where she lies down and he strokes her hair. Lovely. Until he starts pulling it and all hell breaks loose, of course.

They also make each other laugh like nobody else can. I rarely (if ever) understand their weird jokes, but they do and, let me tell you, they are hysterical.

And apart from them having a playmate and a support for the rest of their life etc, etc. It’s also interesting to be able to study the nature vs nurture debate in your own home.

Right from when our son was born, it was clear he had a completely different personality. They have the same parents, the same upbringing, but they’re just not alike in so many ways. In fact, and I’ve said this before, my daughter is more like my sister than anybody else.

The Bad

However, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. Having two small children around at the same time can be frustrating to say the least.

Our daughter took quite a long time to adjust to having a little brother. She’s much better now, but those first six months were tough.

And there are still some days when one or the other (or, if you’re really lucky, both) wake up on the wrong side of the bed and set about making the other child’s life misery from the get-go. They squabble. A lot. Sometimes they’re so busy fighting that they don’t even want to play with me. These days are draining. I imagine it’s what having a dementor suck out your soul feels like. Only with more screaming and tears.

They fight over everything. Toys, water bottles, snacks… it doesn’t matter. They can have exactly the same thing and still want what the other has as well. One of my son’s first words, and the one he pronounces most beautifully, was “MINE!”

And, of course, Mummy is a key battleground. They both want to sit on me. They both want to be carried. They both want me to read to just them. Or play with just them. I try to give them one-on-one time, but often it’s just not possible and so they have to learn to share.

The Ugly

I’d forgotten how physical sibling fights can be. My sister and I used to fight a lot – she would wake me up every Saturday by poking and prodding me until I retaliated and we started fighting. We used to pinch each other, kick… I don’t remember hair pulling but I’m not going to rule it out.

My children seem to be no different. They pull each other’s hair, they hit each other with whatever happens to be closest to hand and my daughter bites. She used to bite my son when he was first born and this week she’s started again. Joy of joys. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before my son realizes he also has teeth and can do the same thing. I’m not sure what I’ll do at that point. Maybe just leave them to it? Or buy muzzles?

So there we have it! I’m sure their relationship will change over the next few years and I really, really hope that when their adults they’ll get along wonderfully and we’ll have fantastic Christmas reunions…

But let me know, what are your experiences of having more than one child? Do they play lovingly all the time? Fight? Make you want to hide in a dark cupboard with your hands over your ears? Do you have loads of kids and think I don’t know that I’m born?

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